Premise: Of Parts and WholeHere’s your quick summarization of what the two settings, Spelljammer and Planescape, as they are unaltered and an idea of the where I’m working towards with my merger of the two settings. Remember, this isn’t the full chant since I’m doing my best to not violate the Content Guidelines, though to be honest the only thing that will come closer to stepping over the line of those guidelines will be my article on the Factions.
PlanescapePlanescape, to neophytes like I once was, is thought to be a campaign where you adventure on the planes rather than on the prime material plane. This is not incorrect, but it is missing one thing: belief. My TSR history is too lacking to know what came first, but Planescape was set on the old Great Wheel cosmology and on the Great Wheel belief shaped reality. While most campaigns only tap this concept as the source of divine power, in Planescape the idea that belief shaped reality itself was a key concept of the campaign.
The key is in both the quantity of believers who hold the belief, and the quality of the belief when held up to the dark of the way the universe really is. Those beliefs that are true enough and/or prevalent enough tend to attract a group of believers together into organization called Factions, though organized is sometimes too strong a word depending on the belief of the Faction in question. What isn’t in question is that every Faction believes that they have found the true dark behind how the universe operates. A second term, Sects, is sometimes used for less organized Factions or subgroups within the Faction, but the need for such a term has less to do with belief and more with the politics of Sigil between the Great Upheaval and Faction Wars.
At the center of Great Wheel cosmology and center stage to the Planescape campaign is Sigil, City of Door and reported center of the universe. Most material since late Second Edition that talks about the planes in survey have mentioned Sigil at least in passing, but for those who haven’t read anything other then what I’m writing now then let me just say that Sigil is a city that has portals to everywhere. And I mean EVERYWHERE. As such, it was a goal for all the Factions just for mobility alone. The city of Sigil had a protector who keeps the city from the brink, the mysterious Lady of Pain. Her title is well deserved, and the entire city is thankful she rarely exercises her powers.
There are two occasions where the use of her authority is important to the setting. One is part of the settings back-story: the Great Upheaval where she limited the number of Factions who could operate in Sigil to fifteen. The second is in the conclusion of a module known as the Faction Wars that is now considered the book end for Planescape in Second Edition. In the epilogue of the Faction Wars, the Lady of Pain effectively tossed the Factions out of Sigil. The Faction Wars is important since it has been made cannon for fourth edition in the Dungeon Master Guide 2, and also due to the event known as the Tempest of Doors.
SpelljammerSpelljammer, in its most blunt description, is DnD in space. Note that this is not to be confused with science fiction. If anything it is one of the truest interpretations of space fantasy out there. You still have wizards fighting dragons; they just do it out amongst the stars with the wizard standing on the deck of a magical flying vessel.
Spelljammer operates on two big assumptions on what space looks like. One is the concept of spheres, the regions of spaces that are normally similar to what we know as space but limited to a single solar system. Within a sphere a single campaign world rests, normally either circling a star or at the center itself with the star circling it; this is fantasy after all. The other concept is the Phlogiston, a gaseous material that exists between spheres and effectively made up the majority of the prime material plane. Phlogiston was separate from the spheres, moved in currents strong enough to promote sphere to sphere travel, and most of all was flammable.
That last part displayed another difference with Spelljammer, it liked to knock you down if you didn’t adjust to it, sometimes even more then Dark Sun. The Phlogiston was flammable, gods and their servants only had power within the spheres the god had a following in, and most of all air was a consumable resource. To be fair the nature of Second Edition itself was more to blame for this than Spelljamer, but it has to be noted.
The Big MixSo how am I going to mix these two together? Before answering that question, let me make an argument on why they have to be mixed. Planescape needs this mix because on its own it lacks footing in the Fourth Edition cosmology; there is no Great Wheel, meaning no Great Road, meaning travel around the planes isn’t what it used to be and the loss of Sigil as a base is going to have a stronger effect the Factions than described in the epilogue of the Faction Wars. Spelljammer needs this mix because it needs an extra kick to be a setting; Spelljammer provided great tools for adventuring in space with DnD for second edition, but it lacked motivation how why an adventurer would choose spelljamming over land based adventure. Bring the settings together and one will do a lot to solve the other’s problem.
Of course, with the Great Wheel is gone we need to preserve at least the essential elements of Spelljammer. Thankfully the general concept of Spelljammer’s Phlogiston can be described rather well in Fourth Edition terms: it is where the Astral Sea and the Elemental Chaos meet, the raw substance that the primordials crafted the world(s) out of. This fits the most essential element of Spelljammer nicely into Fourth Edition’s cosmology and the default origin story. Other elements of the Phlogiston will need a Fourth Edition face lift, but that deserves its own article.
Now for the merger; take a step back to the Tempest of Doors I mentioned concerning the epilogue of the Faction Wars. During the Faction Wars, the Lady Pain closed all the portals of Sigil. Once the fighting was resolved and a truce was signed, the portals were opened again but not all in the same location as before. For the merger I am taking this event and taking it one step further: the portals reopened and on the other side not only had the destinations of the portals changed, but the known destinations had themselves been altered. The closing of the doors of Sigil was like pulling a lynch pin: belief shapes the universe and with Sigil cut off from universe the belief of the primes broke the Great Wheel into pieces… or at least some will theorize in such a setting.
In any case, the universe outside of Sigil had changed, and Sigil would no longer tolerate the Factions. If they were going to survive, they had to adapt… first order of business was getting around.
So, the Factions adapt. They find new bases of operation suited to their ideology. They adopt new methods of travel, including but not limited to spelljammers. Most of all they have to put aside one big collective prejudice and realize that the primes matter just as much as the planes. The universe might be divided a little differently but ultimately it is belief that holds it all together.
So in the end this will not just be Spelljammer with Planescape Factions, since we still have activity on the planes. It also won’t be Planescape played with spelljammers rather than portals, since portals aren’t gone but just taken out of a tidy circular road. What this is going to be is a campaign that happens between the other published and unpublished campaigns. It serves as a link between them, and will hopefully stand on its own if so desired.